Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Peppa Pig and Zack and Quack 2 DVD giveaway!

Here is another great opportunity to win 2 educationa DVDS for your tot or preschooler!

**Skip Run Learn is not responsible for prize.

Welcome to the Easter giveaway!
Sponsored by Kaboom! Entertainment
Hosted by Kathy's Savings easter
This giveaway is for the movies Peppa Pig Muddy Puddles and Zack & Quack Popping Hopping Easter. This is for the U.S. only. This giveaway goes from 3/9-3/23. You can enter below for your chance to win. Good luck to everyone.
Disclosure: Kathy's Savings and all other participating bloggers are not responsible for prize shipment. The giveaway is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media. The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is drawn.

Book Giveaway! DLees's Nighttime Scare!

If your little one is anything like mine, then it is simply impossible to have enough books in the house!  My daughter is constantly asking me to read her story after story and "book" is one of her most used signs! I am half convinced that she would be happy with all books and no toys! If you are like me, then the idea of a child who loves books and reading absolutely thrills you! It's win win.  Here is a great book with a great lesson to add to your collection! And best o all you can win a copy free of charge!

**Skip Run Learn is not responsible for prize.

Sponsored by DLee's World
Do your little ones enjoy reading? If they do than we have the perfect giveaway for you, a new book called DLee's Nighttime Scare! In DLee's Nighttime Scare DLee is trying to go to sleep but is afraid because of the spooky eyes she sees in her closet. She calls for her mommy and her mommy explains to her that there is nothing to be afraid of but DLee is still worried. After explaining to her mommy what the monster looks like her mommy turns on the light. Suddenly DLee's cat pops out of the closet!
This book is perfect to help teach little ones not to be scared at night and to help them to learn that things they see in the dark may not be what they seem. 
Enter Below!
DLee's Nighttime Scare Giveaway

Saturday, March 7, 2015

My Gym giveaway!!

I am super excited about th a giveaway because of how versatile the products are! There are so many possibilities for activities using these My Gym products, an all are guaranteed to be a hit-not only with my toddler, but with my 8 year old step daughter as well!  

***My Gym is responsible for this giveaway. Skip Run Learn holds no responsibility.

I was provided with products for My Gym in order to write this review. All opinions are my own, thank you!

My Gym!

Established in 1983, My Gym [named #1 Children’s Fitness Franchise by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2014] is a leading fitness center destination for children with over 325 locations worldwide with over 30 new locations planned for addition in the next 12 months.  

Combining innovative, early physical education/pre-gymnastics classes with state-of-the-art facilities My Gym is set to empower children ages 6 weeks through 10 years by helping them acquire the skills, confidence, and positive self-image needed to become healthy young adults, with age appropriate classes and parties to stimulate and educate throughout...

My My Gym experience!

I have 3 biological children and a step son and if there is anything I have learnt over the years it is that getting up off of their butts, off of the computer and engaging their body [and mind] in other ways can sometimes be all the difference between lazy fun-times with a gadget and learning, having fun and staying active with a little imagination and MY GYM!

Well, My Gym children's fitness accessories are a great way to bring life and fun to activities and I was lucky enough to get the chance to try out some bean bags, rubber rings and a ball from them, which, when combined, makes for a fabulous time. 

I first utilised these as an added party game, where each person would have a team, a ring and a bean bag - there were 2 teams in total and the first person in each team would throw the bean bag, get it to land on the hoop and then run over, collect it and then tag the person behind them. Once all members of a team had finished, the game ended and they were the winners!

This game encourages working as a team, hand-eye coordination, active fitness running to and from the ring and patience. This is a simple, fun game for all and perfect for a party setting! 

Another way to get interactive is with the ball - my youngest 2 children (1.5 and 4 years old) like to hold, throw, catch and balance with the ball as well as trying out some of the activities recommended on the My Gym activity list that was included in our review kit! 

Simple activities like rolling a ball, squeezing the ball, raising and lowering the ball etc are all stimulating and great sensory exercises! 

There are so many things you can do with a child and a bean bag, some rubber rings and a ball, and they can have so much fun and not even realise it until it is over!

Here are some great facts that you may like to know!
  • My Gym launched their new interactive Building Blocks Program to all enrolled children ages 2.5 years and older. The program helps children work toward specific milestones in their physical, cognitive, and emotional development and then celebrates their achievements with stickers, progression ribbons, medals, trophies, graduation certificates and more in periodic Building Blocks Acknowledgement Ceremonies.  
  • The My Gym television show, “My Gym At Home,” airs on BabyFirst, a 24/7 channel focusing on children’s development. 
  • For more information about My Gym and the location nearest you, please visit www.MyGym.com.

You can also head on over HERE to learn [and buy] more!

Already a fan of My Gym?! Why not let me know and share your thoughts! I'd love to hear from you!


Enter below to win 2 rings and a ball of your own from My Gym!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Rules: You must be over 18 to enter and in the USA. You will be informed via email if you win and so please use a valid email address (we do not use, sell or supply your email addresses to any other party, these are for contact purposes only!). Winner will have 48 hours to respond to their winning email. A new winner shall be chosen should we not gain response from the original winner - this will continue until a winner is confirmed. Prizes are supplied by the sponsor and and are not the responsibility of Mom's Gone Bronson, nor any other participating blogger. 

Thank you!


Thursday, March 5, 2015

#Disneyside @ Home Party Review

*I received a free party box with goodies from Disney and momselect in exchange for my honest. opinions. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

A while ago I posted about party ideas for toddlers. This past weekend our family finally had our party and it was a blast for everyone involved! A special thanks to disney and momselect for making this all possible! This post focuses on how the party went for my toddler.

For a month leading up to the party, Pumpkin and I enjoyed many Disney books together.  I grew up on Disney, so it always feels so much more special when we read disney books together.

When it was finally time to have our party, I ended up not needing all the activities I had planned from my post with toddler party activities.  Ultimately I ended up picking just a few that I thought my daughter would like best.  We opened up our party with some sit down games-the word search for the older kids and coloring activities for Pumpkin. A quick trip to a local dollar store allowed me to get Pumpkin a brand new coloring book and a pack of 10 jumbo crayons for $2 total! pumpkin LOVED this activity as coloring is a favorite of hers.                                      

After our quiet sit down games, we moved on to "Pin the Smile on Mickey." For this activity, Pumpkin went last. We let her watch as each of us were blindfolded and spun and pinned our smile. Then we spun her around 3x slowly (to feel included) and pointed to Mickey's head. My step daughter ended up winning, but Pumpkin actually did quite well considering I hadn't expected her smile to even make it on Mickey's face!

When it was time for us to all play Bingo, we brought Pumpkin to the table to color again.

Afterwards we moved on to "Snap," a card game that was included in our party pack. Pumpkin, at this age, is more interested in tearing and bending cards than playing a game, so we provided her with a small Disney Princess ball that I purchased for a dollar at our local dollar store. Pumpkin is a HUGE fan of balls so this kept her more than entertained. As we all played Snap, she had a blast throwing and chasing her new ball!

Our activities for Pumpkin may be fairly simple and open ended, but there is no doubt that she had a blast! By the end of the day she was completely exhausted and ready for bed. She enjoyed herself every bit as much as our family and other guests!

*I received a free party box with goodies from Disney and momselect in exchange for my honest. opinions. All opinions expressed are strictly my own. For privacy considerations, only my daughter and step daughter were photographed.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Parent-Tot Indoor Obstacle Course!

This morning while I was working, I put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse for Pumpkin and listened as they talked about obstacle courses. Memories of my childhood love of obstacle courses started playing through my mind until I decided that I was going to pass on the tradition to my 16 month old! So I started thinking about all the supplies I had on hand-toys, art supplies, features of the house and the skills I am working with Pumpkin on and inspiration took hold! Here is a simple obstacle course that parents can do with their toddlers. This course includes fine motor, gross motor, sensory, cause and effect and cognitive experiences all bundled together into a super fun activity that my daughter absolutely loved!

We started the obstacle course on her Minnie Mouse Train ride-on toy and went through the paper towel roll zig zag maze (I knew I was saving those paper towel rolls for a reason).

Next we walked over (or kicked over as Pumpkin decided kicking was more fun) the mega block mini walls.

Then we rode the big blue blanket over the hard wood floors...

...and stopped at the crayons and paper. I was hoping I could get her to draw a line across the paper, but sitting on the paper coloring was more fun. Which works just as well.

After she was done coloring we walked on the pillow balance walk.  This was actually a lot more challenging than it looks for her, but with some help from Mommy's fingers for balance, she got the hang of it!

Then we copied mommy at putting the correct colored peg into the peg boards. She watched me do one and she did the other. Her sorting skills aren't very advanced yet, so I pre -arranged the colors. Plus she was in more of a "running around" mood this morning. Perhaps well do more with obstacle courses another day when she is feeling more calm.

Then we ran to the stairs and crawled up together (Pumpkin has been practicing stair safety for at least 4 months now and is very skilled or I wouldn't have used stairs at all. As it is I allowed this activity only because I was right there the whole time).

At the top of the stairs we found 6 different sizes and textures of balls ready to be thrown down the stairs. I saved what I knew would be Pumpkin's favorite for last. She LOVED this-each ball bounced down the stairs a little differently and throwing toys down stairs usually isn't allowed, so this was an absolute BLAST for her. For added educational benefit I counted the balls as she threw them.

And that's our obstacle course. Pumpkin loved it so much we did it 3 times and had fun each time. Indoor obstacle courses can be a great way to combat winter "stuck inside" boredom. It certainly gave us a break from our usual routine (and I liked that I was able to incorporate several of the skills we have been working on).

What are some of your indoor winter boredome busters?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cosco Convertable Car Seat Giveaway

Sassy Mom, 2 Spoiled Bratz
and Cosco teamed up to bring you a giveaway for one of these awesome car seats!

    As moms, we all want our children to be as safe as possible. One of the best ways to keep our children safe in the car is through a good car seat like this one! Car seat laws can vary from state to state, but it is generally recommended that a child stay in a 5 point harness car seat-such as this-until they have outgrown the weight and height requirements of the car seat (at which point they can move to a booster seat). In my state, the youngest a child can be out of a car seat like this is age 4 (unless other size requirements are met). Please protect your little ones! 
     This giveaway is in no way endorsed, associated or affiliated with Facebook, Twitter
    or any other Social Media Networking sites. This giveaway is valid in the Continental
    United States and entrant must be 18+ years of age to enter. 
    The bloggers promoting and hosting this giveaway is not responsible for prize fulfillment. Cosco will be in charge of that.   

    Tuesday, February 24, 2015

    Our Favorite Anthologies

    I love to read to my daughter, and my daughter loves to be read to. I often find that the best way to satisfy this growing love of books is with the use of anthologies. Anthologies give more story for my dollar and take up less space. I've also found that my daughter often will go to these books first as well (not always, but at least half the time).  This past month I decided to add to our little book collection. While at the book store, I found this anthology on the bargain table with stories like Courdory and Madeline, as well as a handful of others. I was very disappointed to find that most of the stories were poorly abridged. I understand that anthologies that are 100% unabridged are pretty rare, and that's fine, but if you are going to abridge a story, at least make sure you abridge it in such a way that it can stand as its own story. This book failed miserably at it. For example, the general gist of Madeline was that Madeline had to go to the hospital and stay overnight, so the headmistress lady woke up because something wasn't right, asked the children what was wrong: they were worried about Madeline...so she went back to bed and "that's all there is. There isn't anymore."

    Even though my daughter is still quite young, I still require that stories at least make sense in their own. For Madeline to make sense, the headmistress has to offer some sort of words of comfort or wisdom. So I returned the book, and set out on a mission to find a better anthology for our collection. I also developed a deeper appreciation for the anthologies we already have!

    If you are looking for some anthologies to read with you children and would like the stories to make sense, here are some of our favorites.

    3. The World Treasury of Children's Literature

    These two volumes of the World Treasury of Children's Literature contain a great variety of stories, most of which appear to be fairly unabridged. There are not a lot of pictures, but the pictures included are wonderful. These books also have poems and just a great variety of stories in general. In spite of the limited pictures, Pumpkin does indeed enjoy these stories.

    2.  Disney Anthologies

    I grew up on Disney, so I love reading these to my daughter. The pictures are always amazing, and I love the stories, as does Pumpkin. The anthology that has the original stories are abridged, but they still make sense. Our favorite Disney anthology that we got so far is 5-Minute Snuggle Stories.  In 5-Minute Snuggle Stories all our favorite characters go on new adventures. Since the stories are specifically written for the anthology, they all make sense and nothing feels like it is missing. 

    1.  100 Classic Stories

    This is our newest addition to our book collection and I am quite happy with it.  As the title suggests it contains classic stories like The Three Little Pigs and The Princess and the Frog, as well as Cimderella and other princess stories. The stories are not original, unabridged but they make sense on their own. Cinderella, for example follows pretty closely with the Disney movie, but leaves out Cinderella being friends with the mice and other of the more minor details. Often the stories are further watered down or contain some sort of moral or karma twist at the end. The prince in Cinderella makes the ugly step sisters do dishes once a week in the palace kitchen, for example. In the Princess and the Frog, the princess does not have to kiss the frog, only be nice to the frog. If you set aside the expectation for the stories to be the true classics, they are fun stories that I have no problem reading to my daughter. I would have preferred the originals, but these stories work well enough for now. Also I find the pictures to only ok-really they aren't bad, but I prefer a different style of picture.

    Monday, February 23, 2015

    Busy Books and Young Toddlers

    Busy books tend to be something I would normally associate more with an older toddler or preschooler, however I recently took a chance with my daughter and decided to try one with her. We were in the bookstore and Pumpkin saw a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse busybook with all her favorite characters as suction cup characters. The book was an instant hit with her as she carried it with her through the store. Even though the book was for ages 3+, I saw the pieces weren't that small so I asked her if she wanted to take that book home. She stood up, picked up her book, and started carrying it where I directed her. She was so excited!

    Naturally, when we got the book home I pulled out all the pieces to see what she would do with them. I started taking them out and placing them all in the book with the auction cups to show her how to play with the new book. Pumpkin promptly took all the pieces off and scattered them across the floor, but she had a blast doing it.  After we had played for a bit I carefully packed all the pieces back up-I figured I would just save it till she got a little older (I definitely see some educational value in the busy book we got so I didn't want to lose any pieces).

    Pumpkin had other ideas. She quickly learned where I was keeping the book in her room and started to ask for it when we were upstairs. So everytime she asks, I pull out the book and we play with the characters together, with me periodically putting the pieces in the book. Surprisingly, after we played with the pieces 4 or 5 times, something awesome happened-Pumpkin started to play with the pieces by putting them into the scenes of the book. Mind you, she isn't positioning the characters to act out scenes or doing the activities, just properly putting the characters in the book with the suction cups. Then she would turn the page and put the pieces back on. Then the car came out and she started to play pretend with the pieces and make the car "drive" around.

    So my 15 month old definitely isn't doing activities on par with a 3 year old, and this definitely is not a toy I would leave her alone with to keep her "busy," but at her current developmental stage, I have found this kind of busy book to be a great tool for imaginative play and fine motor skill practice. The best part is that this is exactly the type of toy my daughter can grow into.  I'm glad that I took the chance and bought this book for my daughter.

    Friday, February 20, 2015

    4 DVD Giveaway!!

    Welcome to the NCircle DVD's Giveaway
    Sponsored by NCircle Entertainment
    Hosted by Kathy's Savings IMG_4822
    Great opportunity to get 4 great DVD's! I've watched several episodes of most of these DVD's with my daughter and I am impressed with the educational content in some of these movies! Don't miss out!

    This giveaway is for four DVD's from NCircle. These DVD's include Octonauts, Pocoyo, The Wiggles and Wibbly Pig! The giveaway is open to the U.S. only. This will run from 2/20-3/6. Good luck to everyone.

    Disclosure: Kathy's Savings and all other participating bloggers are not responsible for prize shipment. The giveaway is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media. The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is drawn.

    Monday, February 16, 2015

    General Mills Giveaway!

    I don't know about your family, but mine absolutely loves out General Mills cereal-from my husband to my toddler! It's great to have a quick and easy breakfast on hand that everyone will eat. Plus the winner receives a skylander toy! A perfect giveaway!

    Welcome to the General Mills Prize Package Giveaway
    Sponsored by General Mills
    Hosted by Kathy's Savings IMG_4788
    Enter to win General Mills cereals and an exclusive Skylanders game set. This giveaway is open to the U.S. only. The giveaway will go from 2/17-3/3. Good luck to everyone
    Disclosure: Kathy’s Savings and all other participating bloggers are not responsible for prize shipment. The giveaway is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by or associated with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media. The winner will be contacted by email and have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is drawn.

    Sunday, February 15, 2015

    Gourmet Lollipops Giveaway!

    I remember in my youth when we used buy gourmet lollipops from Bob Evans on Sunday Mornings after breakfast. This giveaway brings back so many amazing childhood memories!! Now you can make new memories over these lovely gourmet lollipops with your children! (Very young children should be supervised with lollipops if you decide to share with them).

    **Skip Run Learn did not receive a sample of this product, but Free For All Fans did. Skip Run Learn holds no responsibility for product delivery or winner selection.

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    This giveaway is hosted by Free For All
    Prize sponsored by
    Full review of Original Gourmet coming soon to Free For ALL!
    Enter Here to win a 100 Count Mini package from Original Gourmet Lollipops!

    Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Original Gourmet Lollipops. for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

    Monday, February 2, 2015

    Starting More Focused Activities With a Young Toddler

    Throughout our toddler homeschool experience thus far, I have advocated taking a very laid back approach to homeschooling my toddler; recently, however, as Pumpkin turned 15 months, I decided to take another look at the Early Learning Content Standards. To my surprise, Pumpkin has achieved all of the goals except for 4-pointing to named body parts (which she does know a few, but not enough for me to call her meeting this standard), pointing to named pictures in a book, matching objects that are the same or similar, and noticing obvious changes in quantity.  All of these would require a bit more from me than merely providing exploratory materials for Pumpkin to freely play with, so I have decided to begin adding a few activities to our routine that are a little more direct, without adding undue pressure.

    To start off, I reviewed my state's suggestions on how to encourage a child on the goals she is still working towards. Then I thought about my daughter and came up with my own ideas for how to encourage Pumpkin towards her goals and came up with a unique plan for Pumpkin and I to dive into.  For example, I know that my daughter really likes socks. Socks tend to have an exact match. So I went upstairs and grabbed 3 of Pumpkin's most colorful, uniquely patterned socks and laid them out on the floor between us. To encourage her on learning to find matches, I would grab a sock and ask her to find the sock's match. Instead of grabbing the match, she would usually grab the sock she wanted to and ask me to put it on her foot. Not quite what I wanted her to do, BUT it was our first attempt. Instead of getting frustrated, however, or making a big deal out of it, I simply put the sock on her foot and asked her to find the match for that sock instead. Usually she would find an entirely different sock. I would then take off the first sock and replace it with the new sock, and carry in with the activity. The message I wanted to get across to her is that socks must match if she wants to wear both of them. Meanwhile, Pumpkin still had fun playing with the socks, and was not frustrated.

    Another direct way we are approaching our goals is by singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" whenever the fancy strikes me. I know my daughter loves songs and dancing, so it seemed perfect. As I sing I will point to the appropriate body parts and Pumpkin will watch me with her adorable, huge grin on her face. But, I have also noticed that she is pointing to the body parts named in the songs more often throughout the day! Not bad progress for only one week of the new changes.

    We have added several other activities to our week also, but these should give you a few ideas for how to begin targeting specific goals together! Always keep your toddler and her personality in mind, and try to pick activities that will hold her interest, but also don't be afraid of trying something totally new! After all, you don't know that your toddler doesn't like an activity if she has never done anything like it (I learned this week that my daughter really likes the shape shorter, for example, but if I hadn't brought one out to try, I would have never known.) Above all else, make sure you both are continuing to have fun! If one of you is getting frustrated, put up the activities and play a game of chase or peek a boo or do a silly dance!

    Tuesday, January 27, 2015

    Baby Signing Time Review

    *I purchased the items presented in this review and am writing the review with permission from Two Little Hands Productions. I was not compensated for the review. All opinions are my own.

    I have been wanting to try Baby Signing Time with my daughter for some time now, but with all the information floating around about TV before age 2 being at best a bunch of flashing lights or at worst a hindrance to development, I was very skeptical that I would be wasting our money by buying this product for our 14 month old. However, after trying the first 2 DVD's in the Baby Signing Time series for 3 weeks, I am having some serious doubts about the validity of any study that claims that a child under 2 cannot comprehend and learn from educational TV. My daughter's progress with these DVD's has been truly outstanding, and my concerns were entirely unfounded!

    Prior to beginning Baby Signing Time, I had been working with my daughter for months, and she knew 4 signs.  Once she opened the Baby Signing Time DVD's on Christmas morning, the only thing that changed was that we would watch the DVD together once a day, 5 days a week (and in the car).  She now knows 22 signs after just 3 weeks with this new routine.by the end of the first week, my daughter had added 4 new signs to her signing vocabulary. By the end of week 2 she had added an additional 4 signs. Given her pace learning signs prior to using these DVD's, I was positive her pace would slow, but much to my surprise, she added an additional 10 signs to her vocabulary by the end of last week (week 3)!

    Baby Signing Time has not only helped my daughter's signing vocab improve, but it has done it in a fun and engaging way.  My daughter absolutely loves when we sit down to watch our Signimg Time together! As soon as I start the DVD and sit down she is all smiles as she runs straight to my lap.  The songs are the perfect length to keep her engaged as we dance and sign through the DVD.

    Each individual Baby Signing Time DVD comes with both the DVD and the audio CD for $21.99.  Package deals are also available in addition to the Signing Time website's frequent sales. I got my Baby Signing Time DVD's for the amazing price of $10 each!  When I purchased the DVD's-which contain 25 signs each-I had intended for them to last a full year so I could catch the amazing sale again, however, based on Pumpkin's progress, I highly doubt this will be the case. These DVD's, however, are worth every penny and I will gladly pay a higher price to keep Pumpkin's progress moving at the pace Baby Signing Time makes possible.

    Sunday, January 25, 2015

    Over 5 Party Activities for Young Toddlers

    *I received free products to host a #disneyside @ home celebration. All opinions expressed here are my own.

    My family recently was selected to host a #disneyside party! Our party kit included many fun games and decorations to help us host a party for people of many ages, however there is one age group that is overlooked which I think would be capable of enjoying the party. Toddlers. Admittedly, I failed to plan activities for my own daughters first birthday-writing things off as the first party being more for the parents and there not being anything she could do. However, our trip to Disney World last month-where our 14 month old had the most fun of any o us-has shown me that toddlers are also fully capable of party games.

    Much like the activities I do with Pumpkin in our toddler homeschool, toddler activities that I am planning for the party are usually going to be fairly open ended where I will provide the materials and the toddler(s) will decide what to do with them. Here are a few ideas to get you started-all Disney themed to go along with our Mickey Mouse theme!

    1. Disney Sensory Bottles-these can be used with parental supervision for children even younger than 1 year. If they can grab a water bottle, they can enjoy this mess free activity-magic pixie dust themed!

    What you need:
    -1 empty water bottle

    Simply combine all the ingredients together in the empty water bottle. The oil will slow the glitter's fall on the way to the bottom when the water bottle is flipped over, so start with a small amount of oil and continue adding until you are getting your desired effect. Likewise how much glitter you would like can be experimented with. The result is a pretty cool effect that will likely fascinate your toddler.

    2. Fun with Disney Balls and Water Bottles-again, children old enough to grab a ball can enjoy this activity also. All you need is some balls with Disney characters and some empty water bottles. There are endless possibilities for ways to use these items. Stand the pins up and let the toddlers throw the balls at the pins. The toddlers will likely also have fun squeezing the water bottles to make the crunch sound and simply throwing the balls and watching them roll away!

    3.  Coloring-this is likely appropriate for ages 12 months and up (with supervision).  Disney themed coloring books and jumbo crayons can usually be found at the dollar store for a dollar each. They may not be coloring in the lines, but there are few things that my 15 month old likes more than coloring.

    4.  Playing with Balloons-Pumpkin absolutely LOVED playing with the helium balloons from her first birthday with her big sister, so I am quite excited to try and find some disney themed helium balloons for each child going to the party (kids of all ages love balloons)! Parental supervision required as the strings on the balloons are pretty long, but Pumpkin loved pulling the balloons down from the ceiling and shaking them!

    5.  Confetti Play-when our disney side party kit arrived in the mail, Pumpkin's favorite part was the confetti! The confetti was basically thin paper strips that were crinkled up to look like crinkle fries. Pumpkin could not get enough of pulling all the confetti out of the box, then putting all the confetti back in, and I fully plan to use this activity-exactly as is-at the party. It will be the messiest activity at the party and it will be as hard to clean up as grabbing a sweeper and sweeping.

    6. Pin  he Smile On Mickey-in with all the activities sent in my disney side party kit, there was one that I feel my daughter can participate in! For this one I will give each toddler their smile to pin on Mickey and let them place the smile without being blind folded or spun. Chances are they will be every bit as far off as the older children's-if they even make it onto the wall!

    7.  Disney Story Time-this one probably won't happen at the party, but in the weeks leading up to the party we will be reading all disney themed stories for our storytime, and our bedtime story will also be Disney themed. Since Punpkin loves Mickey and Minnie so much, it should be a blast!

    *I received free products to host a #disneyside @ home celebration. All opinions expressed here are my own.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2015

    Toddler "Chores"

    This past week or two, I started "giving Pumpkin chores."  It may sound strange to hear that a toddler has chores, but Pumpkin actually seems to really enjoy helping mama. In fact, the whole idea came to me because Pumpkin was showing an interest in what I'm doing. If I'm in the kitchen cooking, she is always trying to figure out what I'm doing. If I'm im the laundry room Pumpkin runs straight to the open drier door (and if I run to get a sock I see on the floor real fast she quickly finds a toy or shoe to put in the drier. If I'm feeding the dogs-she is right there watching. So I decided to take advantage of this natural curiosity.

    Whenever Pumpkin is watching me, if there is something I can have her do, I include her. I'm the kitchen she will help me by picking up any veggies that fell on the floor during chopping and throwing them away, and after I peel the potatoes she puts them in the pot for me. In the laundry room, when she runs up to the drier, I hand her the wet clothes to put in the drier, tell her to close the door when we are done, then I lift her up and point to the buttons that need pressed. When I feed the dogs, I have her grab the scoop and help me feed the dogs. When it is time to clean up toys so I can sweep, I encourage her to put toys in the basket too. Then when I sweep I will slow down when she approaches, lean the sweeper all the way back and let her help me sweep. If I am washing the hard floors I can give her her own rag to wash the floor too.  After she helps me I clap and praise her. It is THE biggest thing in the world, and she smiles with her huge beautiful smile and seems to stand just a little straighter. She is so proud of herself for helping!

    All her help may not actually help me get my work done faster; in fact, it may actually slow me down in some cases, but look at how much she learns. She is learning that it is fun to help people, practicing fine (picking up chopped veggied and throwing them away) and gross (helping sweep the floor) motor skills, playing with sensory activities (touching skinned potatoes), and she actually is learning how to do the chores themselves also.  She is learning about life-that chores a part of everyday life, so when it is time for her to do chores on her own it won't be such a shock.

    Pumpkin's chores give her a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Today I was rushing a load of wash over because I was short on time and Pumpkin saw and came over wanting to help-I had already loaded the drier and she wanted to push the buttons. Her chores make her feel important, and the praise she gets for doing them makes her feel appreciated. Even though a year ago I would have said someone was crazy for giving a one year old chores, I am really seeing so many benefits in it for her, and she really enjoys herself.

    Even though Pumpkin will usually rush to help me with a chore, sometimes she does not, and that's ok. If she is having fun playing, I let her be-she has her whole life ahead of her where chores will mandatory, but for now I will let her be a toddler-except when she WANTS to help.

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    A Few Twists On Reading To A Toddler

    When most people picture a parent reading to a toddler, they probably are picturing the pair sitting contentedly reading a picture book with one sentence per page. I know because I used to picture the same thing. As a first time mom I dutifully tried to stay motivated to read to my infant daughter daily, but I was bored out of my mind and it didn't last long. Around Pumpkin's one year birthday, I decided I was going to change things-I was going to do a "toddler homeschool."  This naturally led to researching homeschooling in general-I actually was looking for a curriculum, but there are not a whole lot for the age group. However, I kept stumbling upon the term "Charlotte Mason." Finally I caved and looked up what the heck a Charlotte Mason curriculum was.

    Charlotte Mason was a teacher around the late 1800's and early 1900's and she definitely was onto quite a few good ideas! Of all the homeschooling methodologies, I find myself most in agreement with this format-of course, she lived over one hundred years ago, and consequently I find some of her philosophies a bit outdated.  However, a few philosophies really stood out to me.  Charlotte Mason believed that children should be read quality literature from an early age-literature should be every bit as interesting to a ten year old as a five year old. She did not think that young children needed "dumbed down" books.  She also believed that children should be exposed to a variety of subject matter because no one knows what will inspire A child's imagination. Of course, she meant for her philosophies to be applied to children a bit older than a one year old, but I ask the question why not apply some of her principles to toddlers?

    Scour the Internet all you want. You will find all kinds of resources on why it is important to read to your kids, and all kinds of benefits, but I bet you will not find a single source that says ONLY brightly colored picture books with one sentence a page should be read to toddlers, and it is imperative to read the books word for word as they are written. So why not spice things up and make a more interesting reading experience for both you and your toddler?

    Why Read?

    Before we endeavor to change our reading habits, let's take a look at why reading is important.  Here are 5 reasons to read to your child (besides the fact that children that are read to tend to have bigger vocabularies).

    1.  Reading is literally a part of every school subject-including math.  Establishing many positive memories for your child to associate with reading could be just the ticket to inspiring a life long love of reading-and when kids love something, they tend to get good at it!

    2.  Depending on book selection, books can teach-or help teach-children important concepts-like counting, animal sounds, and colors.  Even a book without such concepts can inspire your child's imagination and consequently inspire creative play!

    3.  Books model well spoken language. That doesn't just mean exposing a child to new words, but it models grammar and proper use of words in sentences. If the child is looking at the book with you, then it is also exposing the child to letters!

    4.  It prepares the child for preschools-regardless if you are planning to homeschool or not. When I was researching curriculums, I saw many that indicated that a child not used to being read to may take over the intended one year, whereas a child who is used to being read to may be able to complete the curriculum in its intended period of time.  Just because I read this about homeschool cirriculums does not make it any less true for a child who will be attending traditional schools-they too will struggle to get used to having to use their attention span for longer periods and extract information from books.

    5.  If nothing else, reading together is great for bonding.  There is just something about curling up on the couch together on a cold winter day and having adventures together that is so precious, and dare I say it--fun!

    How To Make Reading More Fun (for both of you)

    Here are some tips and tricks for making reading a more interesting, fun experience for everyone involved!

    1. Read a variety of books. This doesn't mean reading a constant flow of new stories, what I'm referring to is reading different kinds of books. Read long books, short books, books with pictures, books with very few pictures, poetry, nursery rhymes, educational books, books with a good message, books that are just plain fun, new books, and classics (to name a few). In our household, our daily storytime is a long book (sometimes with a lot of pictures, sometimes with very few pictures) and our bedtime story is a book that has a good message to it. Meanwhile, throughout the day Pumpkin is free to bring me any of her books that she would like read to her-and I probably read her a good 10 stories on a normal day.  As I said earlier though, I'm not necessarily reading her a constant flow of new stories-our long story is read everyday for a week. In the beginning of the week she will climb off my lap after a few pages (and I will read while she plays), but by the end of the week she is happily enjoying the familiarity of the story (by Wed she will go get our long book to remind me if I forget)! Our bedtime story is read nightly for a month! Repetition is soothing at this age.

    2.  Don't be afraid to stray from what is written on the page. As we read together, different pictures will spark an interest in Pumpkin-or sometimes the same page. It's ok to stop reading and talk about the random squirrel in the background that has just been noticed.  Similarly, if your toddler has been showing an interest in animal sounds, for example, why not stop at the end of the page and point t the animals you can find so you can talk about the dogs barking and bears roaring?

    3.  Try reading in an interactive way-it's ok to be animated! I often point to body parts on Pumpkin when they are mentioned in a book. I change my voice. I ask pumpkin to find colors on the page. Pumpkin recently learned that a sheep says "ba ba," so everytime we see a sheep I ask her what sound a sheep makes and then make a HUGE deal out of it when she says "ba ba." She Beemer with pride at her accomplishments. If a booke mentions stinky toes I smell her toes and pretend they are so stinky-it delights her everytime.

    You can read anything you want to your toddler, and you can read it anyway you want! So before giving up on reading to your toddler as something mind numbingly boring, try switching things up-not only is it more interesting for you, it is more interesting (and I would argue better for) for your toddler too!  You will know you have found what works for your family when you both are enjoying your story times together.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Never Underestimate Your Toddler

    It's a mistake that I have made quite a few times already-our family will be in a situation where I will believe Pumpkin is too young to understand something or wouldn't be able to figure something out, only to have her completely shock me by accomplishing the task with no problem at all! I can sit here and name about a dozen examples of times that Pumpkin has exceeded all expectations of what a kid her age can do.  Just to name a few:

    We have been frequenting storytime since Pumpkin was 8 months old. After storytime, we go to the children's section of the library to play with the toys, along with one of the other attendees and her mom. When my daughter sees them leaving the story room, she will point at them, look at me and yell for my attention.  After I gather our things-a good few minutes after our post-storytime playmates have left-I follow Pumpkin out the door, and low and behold she knows exactly which way we need to go. She was around 12 or 13 months old at the time.

    This past December, my family went to Disney World. We planned the trip mostly for my 8 year old step daughter and we expected Pumpkin to, at the very best, just enjoy being outside all day-there is NO WAY a 14 month old could possibly "get" what disney world is. My husband and I agree, she enjoyed herself the most out of anyone we went with. In downtown disney she was dancing pretty much all evening. It was a blast for her. In magic kingdom we stopped for a street show on Main Street USA where Mickey and friends were performing and Pumpkin's face lit up so brightly. She had a grin from ear to ear and kept pointing to her favorite characters. Then she would look at me like if she couldn't believe her eyes. This show was THE highlight of my trip. When we met the princesses and Mickey Mouse at the meet and greets, she was absolutely infatuated by them-as long as she was allowed to keep what she deemed was a safe distance. She didn't really care to go up to anyone-just stare. It truly was amazing. All that from a trip where we didn't think she would have a clue.

    Now Pumpkin is 15 months old, and I talk to her all day, thanks to baby sign language. I am amazed by just how much she has to say. Of course she talks on one word sentences, but it is enough for talking to her to be a fun and easy experience. Some people may think I'm crazy for reading Pumpkin short stories instead of exclusively reading picture books geared toward babies and toddlers, but one of Pumpkin's favorite anthologies is Disney's 5 Minute Snuggle Stories. If she sees that book, it's story time! Anyhow, this morning after story time, she still wanted to look through the book (how about that attention span!) and I pointed out a picture of a dog and signed dog. This evening, she wanted to look through the book again. She saw a duck on a page and started signing bird! We had never before looked through books with intent of labeling pictures, so she grasped this concept in less than a day!

    Last week I began working with my daughter on using a shape sorter. I initially had to line the shapes up with the correct holes so she just had to push them in. This week I can point to the correct hole and she will put the shape in properly as long as she only has to twist the shape minimally.

    What's My Point?

    Like many parents, I can go on and on talking about my kid. However, this article isn't an excuse to brag, it's to illustrate just how capable such small humans are! My daughter has really opened my eyes to just how detrimental it can be to underestimate a toddler. In fact, I think underestimating toddlers is one of the biggest disservices we can to them! I use the term disservice because if I had continued to underestimate Pumpkin, she would be deprived of so many things that she enjoys! I think about how boring it would be to be so curious, and stuck in a boring routine that never challenges her. If the first 6 years are truly the time of the most growth (including mental and cognitive growth), then its my job as her parent to take advantage of this time-to give her the tools and freedoms she needs (albeit in a safe, supervised environment) to grow and explore all things she is curious about!

    Lessons Learned and Changes Made

    When I began my mission to create a toddler homeschool for Pumpkin, I thought I was doing an experiment for myself-my husband and I are considering actually homeschooling her when she is school aged and I truly wanted to see if this is even a possibility. Can I make enough time in my day? Am I really going to stay motivated to socialize her properly?  While I truly am discovering a lot about how much I can accomplish and make time for, however, Pumpkin is gaining so much more from our time together than I ever would have imagined. it is exciting as we move forward to know that she is gaining so much from all that we do together-that the time, effort and money I'm investing is for something bigger than a mere experiential. Even if we do not homeschool when she is school aged, I am giving her a wonderful gift, and we are making so many memories together!

    So I move forward in toddler homeschool with a new goal-I am NOT going to underestimate Pumpkin anymore. I know her well and no matter what it is, I am going to give her the chance to participate!  I'm going to stop looking at toddler homeschool as an experiment for the future, and focus instead on making memories and teaching my toddler.

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Where to Start-Making a Toddler Homeschool Curriculum From Scratch

    There are trade offs with everything in life and staying home with a child or sending him to daycare is no different. If you are a working mom, you probably send your child to daycare where he is read to and worked with on various developmentally appropriate skills while mom and dad make money to support him. If you are a stay at home mom then you get to enjoy being the one reading to your toddler and helping him take those precious first steps, but perhaps you have worries about if you are working with your child enough between the laundry, cooking, and other chores. Or maybe you are like me and work from home (in my case full time) and worry that your child is really getting screwed as far as attention goes, but at least you are still there for all the milestones and your family enjoys the benefits of two incomes.  For those of you that want to spend time working with your toddler, but don't know what to work with him on or where to start, this is for you.

    Early Learning Cotnent Standards

    Each state in the U.S. has something called "Early Learning Content Standards." To find these, simply type in the name of your state + the phrase "early learning content standards." Of the states I've looked up it tends to be within the first couple sites on Google and should be a .gov website. These content standards are not a curriculum, but more of a list of achievements and goals for each age group. They are like more in depth milestones for toddlers and pre-school aged children (there are also "content standards" for upper grades. According to my teacher friend these are used in schools to guide teachers. It sort of makes sure the schools are in the same page).

    These standards can seem overwhelming at first. I remember the first time I looked up the content standards, I read through the age range Pumpkin was in, and then completely disregarded everything because Pumpkin seemed light years away, and I remember thinking I could never come up with a routine to work on all of the skills listed. It's ok-these lists encompass a very big age range. I suggest crossing off any skills your child has already mastered, and then looking only at the skills you think your child is close to. You will know what these are when you see them-pick maybe 4 or 5 that you want to work on.


    Another way to gather ideas for what your child should be working on is to Google local daycares. Most daycares have some sort of website, and on that website they usually tell you a bit about the daycare and what types of practices they use in each room. So find the room where your child would belong in-Pumpkin is kind of at an in between age where some daycares would have her in the infant room, some toddler, or if they offer it the "early toddler" room. When I did this in my area and clicked the page for the room she would be in, there was almost always a list of what skills they generally work with kids on. Stuff like "drinking out of a cup," "tummy time," "walking," "crawling," "sign language".  In the rooms that didn't have infants there might be things like "color recognition," or "potty training." It will probably give you a pretty good idea if the main skills that your toddler's peers are working on-at the very least.

    Personal Goals

    Chances are that there are some things you feel are important, regardless of what else is going on.  There was, at the very least, a reason you wanted to begin workings with your child, right? My personal goals for Pumpkin are to instill a love of reading, use baby sign language with the intent of building ASL into a second language, encourage Pumpkin to obey commands-especially with regard to safety, and to have fun with her. I wanted a way to make sure I take time everyday to give Pumpkin attention.

    Put the Lists Together

    Now that you have an idea of what goals other toddlers are working towards, put together a list. I recommend your personal goals being the first priority-you know your child best and what your child is ready for better than anyone else. You also know what your family's individual values and your reasons for even wanting to do this in the first place are better than anyone else, so use it.

    Personally, my next priority is the early learning content standards. I have found the list to very complete. If I am ever feeling in a rut, I know I can turn to the standards to find a new goal to spice things up and it is much easier than running through all the daycare websites I can find.

    Conduct an Experiment 

    Once you have an idea of what direction you want to go in, you are ready to try it out. I'll be the first to tell you that my initial plan is nothing like what we actually do. I was overwhelmed by the early learning content standards and tried to do too much-especially in terms of trying to do things that weren't important to me. For example, reciting nursery rhymes at diaper changes absolutely did not last. I like nursery rhymes, and one day I will teach Punpkin them and maybe read some mother goose books, but it just isn't important to me right now today. Likewise, trying to think in terms of traditional subjects wasn't working for me personally. Through several failed toddler homeschool models, I came to find that we are most productive when I pick a handful of goals and work towards them. Right now a typical day for us consists of daily storytime(s) and Baby Signing Time and something of a block schedule for the goals: Monday will be quantity themed activities, Tuesday night be matching activities, etc.  Then we just play together with whatever other free time I manage to find. It's simple, but fun and effective.

    A Few Final Thoughts

    My daughter and I love our toddler homeschool time, and to top it off she is truly thriving! She amazes me every day with what she can do, and our bond continues to grow. I attribute our success to how much fun we have together. Toddlers seem to just absorb information, and when I take the time to supply the information, she learns pretty fast. If she doesn't get something right away, however, I know it's because she probably just isn't ready yet. Don't make toddler homeschool a super high pressure thing. Expect your toddler to not get every concept right away, and expect to have to change things up a lot. Even with a homeschool plan that works beautifully right now, in a few months we might be doing something totally different! it's just part of keeping a growing curriculum for a growing tot.

    Tuesday, January 6, 2015

    Road Trip with a 1 year old

    Over the river and across the country
    To Grandmother's house we go...

    Ok, maybe not QUITE across the country, but my family did just survive two 17 hour road trips with a 1 year old-1 road trip to get there, and 1 to get back. Contrary to what you might think, it wasn't all that unpleasant.  In fact, my daughter was having so much fun that she refused to nap on the way down to grandma's and I'm pretty sure only managed to nap on the way back because she wasn't feeling well (however, my little trooper hardly shed a tear on the way back either). So how does a parent make a road trip fun for a 1 year old?

    #1: The best thing we did was buy a headrest DVD player for the car. My 8 year old step daughter was also with us, so we needed the kind with 2 screens. Total cost was about $100 and worth EVERY penny. If you can afford it (btw there are also 1 screen options for cheaper), definitely go for it. I also suggest NOT installing it until the morning of the road trip. It will help the amusement to last longer. When we got into the car tht morning, Pumpkin was beside herself with delight at the tv. There were lots of pointing and smiles for quite a while.

    #2:  Plan to sit in the back for a large portion of the trip. It may not be quite as spacious and comfy as the front seat, but it is a lot easier to entertain a 1 year old from that vantage point. There is more to it than handing her a toy and expecting her to entertain herself. All the toys are much more fun when mommy (or daddy) is playing too. It also made it easier for me to see my daughter asking for food or milk (if you are a signing family).

    #3: You are probably going to be making stops. Even if you pack food, everyone needs a break from the car. Typically we were able to go 250-300 miles between stops and I consider that to be VERY impressive. I was thinking we would stop a lot more than that. We tried to make each stop around 30 minutes, and we let everyone-even Pumpkin- get out and walk. As tempting as it was to simply leave her barefoot and carry her around a bit before her diaper change, she needs to really stretch too ;) and she enjoyed exploring the merchandise in the "new stores" (aka gas stations).

    #4: Make a bag of tricks/toys. Or a few bags. I went on the philosophy it was better to have too much than too little. It started out very neat and organized and by the time we reached the destination it always ended up as a heap under foot, but it's ok! It worked for us. What should you put in your bag of tricks?

       A) toys-old and new. Our road trip started Christmas morning after the kids opened gifts, so there was a mix of old and new toys. In the mix of new toys were a baby doll (her first) and an electronic alphabet dog along with a bunch of stocking stuffers (mostly from dollar stores).  Among the list of old toys were some imaginative play toys (horses, a car, etc) and musical instruments-bells and electronic instruments like her guitar and drums, etc.

         B) gifts-again I relied on the dollar store. I spent $10 per kid per way and it stretched plenty far. I even wrapped them up so they could have the joy of opening a gift. Pumpkin needed help, but by the time we got there she had learned that exciting things come out of the wrapping paper. YAY!  Among the most popular were a cookie tray for each of them. Cookie trays are magnetic so I got them magnets also but the real reason that they were a hit was because both kids discovered that you can draw on them with crayons (whatever works, right?). A close second was the toy I saved for last-a little set of toy keys with buttons to beep a horn, etc. Worthy of an honorable mention is the light up toys for night.

         C) Homemade toys-using items we had at home and some dollar store finds, we brought an ice cube tray, Pom poms, empty bite size Oreo containers, empty "ice cube" gum container, mid individually wrapped soft mints, and random containers. We had all sorts of fun grabbing the Pom poms or mints and placing them into slots on the tray, opening and closing lids, and putting magnets and Pom poms into the containers and shaking them. Simple, yet very effective-especially if you play with her.

    #5: consider keeping your child rear facing until the trip. We didn't really need to use this one until the ride home when mommy got tired of the back seat, but it is a good one to have up your sleeve. Turning forward facing was indeed new and exciting. Not quite for as long as I had hoped, but it bought a small break at least.

    #6: bring snacks and drinks. If no eating in the car is a general rule for you, perhaps you might want to consider an exception. Otherwise you will definitely need more stops. Our main ones were those little food punches they sell (for a healthy option) and fish crackers. We also filled a cooler with ice and threw in a half gallon of whole milk and brought a cup from home.

    #7: Download a few child friendly apps. There are a surprising amount of apps that would entertain a toddler. My daughter usually LOVES to play my phone so I had expected these to be a bigger hit, but as it turns out it wasn't a big hit. Even though it wasn't a big hit for this particular week, apps have been big with her before when I needed to get some chores done, so it is quite possible you will have better luck with this than we did. Either way, it doesn't hirt to have a few "just in case." If you don't use them you can always delete them. If you are worried about your phone's safety, try getting a toddler case for them-I know fisher price makes an "apptivity" case for apples (which is what we use).

    So with a little advanced planning and some flexibility, taking a road trip with a 1 year old was nowhere near as bad as I had thought it would be. Frankly I enjoyed all the time with my daughter-actually my whole family, but as the article is about a road trip with a 1 year old...  I Definitely would be happy to do this again!